Access to Work scheme - information for employers

Access to Work is a scheme run by Jobcentre Plus. The scheme provides practical support and advice to disabled people and employers to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from a disability.

About Access to Work

Access to Work pays towards any extra employment costs that result from a disability. If one of your employees or new starters has a disability then Access to Work may be able to help. It applies to any paid job, part-time or full-time, permanent or temporary. There is no minimum number of hours for eligibility for support under the scheme.

It is provided where an individual requires support or adaptations beyond the reasonable adjustments which an employer is legally obliged to provide under the Equality Act.

How does Access to Work help me as an employer?

Access to Work can help you:

  • retain an employee who develops a disability or long term condition (keeping their valuable skills and saving both time and money recruiting a replacement)
  • take on a new employee who is disabled.

What type of help is provided by Access to Work?

Access to Work can support you in a number of ways. For example it can provide funds towards:

  • an initial work-based assessment
  • special aids, equipment and software
  • adaptations to equipment
  • training in the use of any specialist equipment or software
  • travel to work and travel in work
  • a wide variety of support workers

Access to Work does not provide the support itself, but provides a grant to reimburse the cost of the support that is needed.

Will I have to pay anything?

It depends on the size of your business. Small businesses generally do not have to pay anything. Access to work will normally meet 100 per cent of the costs of any adaptations, equipment or training for small businesses (less than 50 employees).

Medium-sized enterprises may have to meet a small proportion of the cost - for existing employees only. You will only have to share the cost for:

  • special aids and equipment, and
  • adaptations to premises or equipment

Access to Work normally covers 100 per cent of the cost of travel and support workers.

In all cases though, Access to Work normally pay grants of up to 100 per cent for any new employee (that is, someone who has been working for less than six weeks when they first apply for Access to Work).

What will be my share of the costs?

Depending on the size of your business, Access to Work will refund up to 80 per cent of the approved costs above a threshold determined by the number of your employees:

  • 0 - 49 employees: nil
  • 50 - 249 employees: £500
  • Over 250 employees: £1000

You will also be expected to meet the costs up to the threshold. AtW currently cover all additional costs over £10,000 but from 1st October 2015 Access to Work grants will be capped at £40, 800 per year:

  • on 1 October  2015 for all new grants given after that date
  • on 1 April 2018 for all grants given before 1 October 2015
Remember though, that this cost-sharing only applies to existing employees, and only for the cost incurred for adaptations, equipment, and training.

How do I apply for Access to Work?

The application is made by the employee, but you can of course help facilitate this process. The employee should contact the Operational Support Unit directly. Contact details can be found on the GOV.UK website.

The sooner Access to Work knows about the request for support, the more time they have to ensure everything is in place when the employee starts. The Access to Work Advisor will need some detailed information, and it will help if you make sure the employee making the application has the following information to hand:

  • A job description for the role.
  • Expected start date.
  • Line manager's contact details.
  • Contact details for the employer's IT support.
  • Contact details of the person who will authorise the purchase and cost sharing.

Making a claim

The employees should contact the AtW Operational Support Unit. The Operational Support Unit will take an initial application over the phone and advise the employee that they will pass their application on to an Access to Work adviser. 
The Operational Support Unit will:
  • check the employee’s eligibility 
  • their National Insurance number
  • their workplace address, including their postcode
  • their name, email address and work phone number of a workplace contact, eg their manager
  • their unique tax reference number (if they are self-employed)
  • the name of their New Enterprise Allowance mentor (if they have one)
  • brief details of their application
The employee will be contacted by an Access to Work adviser within 7 working days.
An assessor will come out to the workplace in order to work out exactly what you require to support the employee. You can get the most out of any assessment by thinking about all aspects of the job beforehand. The assessor can produce a formal document, or the employee can supply a letter containing the necessary information (for example, what equipment they require, who manufactures it, and how much it costs). There should always be a formal report as a result of an assessment. The Access to Work Advisor will present a final figure of necessary costs to you, and any split of costs will then be discussed.

When can I purchase equipment?

You can purchase the equipment as soon as permission has been granted, applying for reimbursement of the Access to Work's agreed contribution with supplied documentation.

Is the cost of installation and training covered?

The costs of installation and training will have been outlined in the assessment report, and you can apply for reimbursement of any agreed Access to Work's contribution to these through supplied documentation.

Further information

We have produced a factsheet for employers on the Access to Work Scheme: